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Margie Orford

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Rape: a Life Sentence for the Victim

The following piece of mine ran in the 25 November Sunday Times, under the headline “Why is it so difficult to legislate against the brutality of rape?”. They fiddled with my stats and then published a correction in the 2 Dec Times, on page 2 – but this is apparently not available online.

Nonetheless, I’m re-running the piece here. I’ve recently become a patron of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, and encourage all to visit their website and support their work. Please read on:

Why is it so difficult to legislate against the brutality of rape?

South Africa has mesmerising levels of sexual violence. The numbers are staggering. More than 45000 rape cases reported a year. Rape Crisis and other organisations that work with the survivors of sexual violence say that a conservative estimate is that only one in six cases is reported. Do the maths. That means that more than 270000 people are raped every year.

For the perpetrators (with our pitiful conviction rates) it is something they wipe off with a towel or some toilet paper before moving on to the next activity of the day.

For many victims it is a life sentence. A rape turns your body into a crime scene, setting it apart like a cordoned-off street, yellow and black police tape flapping around a perfectly ordinary patch of tar, the murmur of onlookers as the evidence is collected.

On a street, the tape is later taken down and the crime scene becomes an ordinary road again. For many rape survivors it as if that cordon is never removed.

Brutalised during the assault, denied adequate access to expert health and psychosocial care and facing a hostile and disbelieving criminal justice system, they find their trauma becomes a bell jar of pain and isolation inside which the survivor-as- crime-scene can be trapped for ever.

“These are rape cases,” says an officer showing me round the police medical forensic lab in Delft, in the Western Cape. Wearily, he stacks a heap of sealed glass slides. There are hundreds of them. “Crime scene evidence.”


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Karina</a>
    December 11th, 2007 @16:13 #

    Margie, thank you for this.


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